This time of year, many or most of us are amateur GMs (and I do stress amateur), reading up on sites like this one all about our favorite prospects and dreaming about what we'd do if we were in Ted Thompson's seat next week. This is my first FanPost; from one nerdy Green'n'Gold watcher to the rest of you, here are some prospects that would be on my short list if I were running the Packer draft board.
The Packers are in darn good shape overall - unlike many teams, they can truly draft for depth. With the biggest question marks at left guard and right outside linebacker, and numerous candidates on the roster for both positions already, they're in remarkable shape to find players that don't need to start in 2011. My list is going to focus heavily on players that are not plug-and-play, but may prove more valuable in future seasons than they do in the one hopefully at hand.
At WR, the two I'd be examining closely in the upper rounds are Torrey Smith from Maryland and Greg Little from North Carolina. My sense of Mike McCarthy is that, when it comes to receivers and tight ends, he likes to have different tools that he can use in a variety of ways. I suspect Smith offers more speed than anyone else on the depth chart, which would allow him to take over Greg Jennings' role as the deep threat outside while Greg makes his future living from the slot. He's also well-respected as a person, so there'd be little chance of locker room issues.
Little, on the other hand, comes in a physical package and measurables that are closer to that of an ideal strong safety than a wideout - he's essentially got the body of a young Brandon Marshall. Imagine Sterling Sharpe three inches taller and twenty pounds heavier... Too big for corners, too fast for linebackers, he'd be another matchup nightmare in the Packer passing arsenal. He's not yet the most mature of players, but with the other very stable personalities in the locker room, he might be worth the risk. I can't put my finger on it, but for some reason I'd rather chance Little than Jonathan Baldwin - I think Little's the better fit.
As a bonus, they both have experience as returners, something the Packers are notably lacking.
At offensive tackle, I'd be ecstatic if Colorado's Nate Solder fell into their laps in the late twenties with a trade or at 32. (I think it's unlikely, but I'd still be happy.) Of the top tackles, he's the one that needs the most seasoning - from what I see and read, Tyron Smith, Costanzo and Carimi are more ready-to-play, which could push Solder down the board as teams that need starting tackles pass over Solder's upside. And what an upside - 6'8, long arms, the frame to hold additional weight and strength pushing him closer to 330 pounds... he could be Jonathan Ogden Lite-and-Fast. And with Clifton still aboard, he's got some portion of a year to intern and develop. My second tackle bet for the Packers is Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, who gets props for being a good person as well as a good football player.
Another developmental player the Packers might nab is Justin Houston of Georgia. Again, based on what I've read, I like him better than Brooks Reed or Akeem Ayers. Athletically he seems a notch higher, and I'd like to see what Kevin Greene could do to refine his skills as a pass-rusher. My second candidate for OLB is Pittsburgh's Jabaal Sheard.
In cornerbacks, I don't think Brandon Harris doesn't fit what the Packers seek physically - he's short and slow - and Jimmy Smith is probably off the board for character issues. In the next tier, Ras-I Dowling or Davon House would make sense - they both top 6' and have the physical traits the Packers look for in corners. Dowling has had a long list of injuries while House remains a work in progress; that said, with Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and Sam Shields on board, this is another "depth pick" where a player will have some time to improve his technique, contribute on special teams and work his way up the depth chart.
Last and not least, I'm sure there are defensive ends the Packers covet. JJ Watt is even less likely to slip to the Packers than Solder is, as much as it would be awesome to have him aboard. I'll bet Iowa's Adrian Clayborn is of interest, though, as his build and purpose reminds me of Mike Neal from last year, while Ohio State's Cameron Heyward would be the Packers' version of a young Aaron Smith of the Steelers.
I would be pretty surprised if the Packers took a player at any other position in the first round, and probably even the second. Even though they don't have a starting LG right now, you can find good guards later - witness Josh Sitton. As far as I can tell, QB, RB, C, TE, ILB, NT, and S have far more depth relative to what the Packers want and need. Unless the Brain Trust is utterly convinced of an awesome steal, at NT for example in a Phil Taylor, I look for the first two picks to be in five position groups that play closer to the sidelines: OT, WR, DE, OLB and CB.
Where do you think the Packers will focus? Who's high on your reasonable-pick draft board?